Douglass Blvd Christian Church

an open and affirming community of faith

n open and affirming community where faith is questioned and formed, as relationships are made and upheld. 

Filtering by Category: Community

A Letter to My Youngest upon Wandering through a Graveyard

By Derek Penwell

Dear Dominic,

I want to tell you about a graveyard I wandered through today. It was rainy and chilly, which seems appropriate if you're going to wander through a place where dead people make their home.

A dry-stone wall rings this patch of land. The stones, which have soft moss colonizing an inhospitable world, are stacked in a way that first appears haphazard, but in reality has its own sense of order and purpose. I suspect that each of those stones has a story to tell about the world that formed them and the hands that laid them.

I'd like you to see what I see and hear what I hear as I wander. The train offers up a plaintive sigh in the distance, while birds perched on a broken branch occasionally provide their own commentary on the landscape we behold.

As you walk down the rows, between the gravestones, you can smell the musky scent of the creek that lies just beyond the far wall. You may also notice that a great deal of time seems telescoped into a very small space, neighbors from different centuries tend their sad homes side by side in this humble stretch of ground.

You may also notice that old people and young people reside next to one another, making their ages unimportant in ways apparently impossible for those of us who tread new paths on top of these old dwellings. But the gravestones, rather than a barrier, form a community whose requirements for membership do not extend to such unspeakably insignificant things as age (or race, or gender, or class, or religion, or sexual orientation, for that matter).

The whisper of the creek carries the muted voices of this particular neighborhood, muted voices anxious to tell a thousand different stories–stories that even the wise stones are not articulate enough to tell.

You cannot quite make out the details of the stories in the language the creek speaks, but you can imagine the tales the whisper wants to tell. And as the creek continues to unfold its watery narrative, you may begin to notice that the stories themselves are alive, that each piece of limestone that stands in the water's way, rather than prevent them, allows the stories to be told again and again–an eternal record of the community gathered.

You may sense the spirit of those buried joining together, an expectant company of those departed but still strangely present, hoping desperately for someone to stop and listen to lives that we often think have slipped quietly into the darkness, but lives that continue to speak nevertheless–even though it's true that most times the only ones there to hear already abide in this sacred community, among the broken stones that surround them and the rippling stream that gives voice to their longing.

I want you to wander through this graveyard with me, my son, so that you may recognize the muted voices of our own lives, which will one day also join this commonwealth and be borne upon the song of the waters. A strange joy to be welcomed home.



2015 Halloween Party

We had a great time at the Halloween party Saturday night! It was wonderful to have the women and children from Freedom House with us. Thanks to everyone who participated, and everyone who helped. Most of all, thanks goes to Jennifer Vandiver for organizing everything.

Baby Shower for Freedom House

This afternoon (Sunday, April 21) members from DBCC gathered together to throw a baby shower for the women of Freedom House, a drug treatment program for women and their children, run by Volunteers of America. Church members bought shower presents for eight women, as well as larger gifts to be distributed by Freedom House.

Good times? Only if you like cake, presents, and love!

Freedom House Shower (1).jpg

It's All about Community

At one point the blog, [D]mergent, posed the question: Where is the church's greatest strength? It offered six possible answers: community, worship, personal morality, spirituality, social justice, and other. The poll wasn't intended to be scientific in either its methodology or its conclusions. Nevertheless, I think the results are important to highlight.

With six possible answers one would assume that the leading vote-getter would garner only a plurality, that a majority would be difficult to come by. In this case, however, 'community' received 50% of the vote (or as near a majority as it's possible to get). Tied for second were 'worship' and 'social justice,' followed by 'other,' 'personal morality,' and last, 'spirituality' (which received no votes). Some of the answers included under 'other' could be summarized in this way:

  • Centrality of Christ, Jesus
  • Clear proclamation of the gospel
  • The potential the church enjoys
  • The church's preoccupation with self-preservation (sarcasm, I think)
  • All of the above

In my interactions with people about how the church is changing in these uncertain times, it has become increasingly clear that whatever else the church may be (or fail to be), it has the potential in many people's minds to offer some kind of meaningful place for people to belong. For a variety of reasons (e.g., a more mobile and transient work force, a decreasing sense of being rooted in a particular place, longer work weeks with longer commutes, etc.) finding community gets harder as time passes.

Previous generations (not that far back) in the U.S. could reliably depend on living within rooted frameworks of social interaction--which is to say, you used to be able to count on being born, working, and eventually dying within the same nexus of communal relationships. And while such a life rooted to a particular place is still a possibility, very few people can trust in it as a likely option for themselves anymore.

This social fragmentation has people yearning for human contact within the structural framework of community--whether that's through clubs, sports teams, non-profit volunteerism, or other affinity groups. The church must come to terms with the intense longing, especially among young people, for a place to belong. The church is a community. And rightly ordered, it is a beautiful community.

  • It should both challenge and nurture you.
  • It should provide accountability across a broad spectrum of human endeavors and interests, as well as a place to be free from the expectation that you are somebody's "project," the object of someone else's self-improvement agenda.
  • It should inspire you to be better, refusing to let you off the hook too easily, but also holding your hand when you can't remember why being better is something anyone would want to do.
  • It should both give you a chance to make friends, as well as to help you understand what true friendship looks like.

Community, however, is not a good as such. Communities improperly ordered, like families, can do indescribable damage. Moreover, similar to other communities, Christian community can fail to live up to its highest calling--which is to equip people for the reign of God--wreaking just as much havoc in the process. Consequently, we ought to be careful not to romanticize community--Christian or otherwise.

But rightly conceived, community seems to be very much what the church at its best has to offer. We would do well to reflect more intentionally about just how we can cultivate the kind of space that people seem increasingly to need.